There are various ways to plan a road trip itinerary for southern Germany. Being the top tourist destination in Germany, the area has beautiful Alps landscape, the highest peak at Zugspitze, the fairy tale castles of King Ludwig II, the idyllic glacier lakes, and the romantic villages dotting at the foot of Alps. Even if you have never been to Southern Germany, you probably have heard of things, such as the famous BMW headquarter, the Germany Hofbräuhaus beer in Munich, the Lederhosen from Oktoberfest.
So, it was a difficult task to make an itinerary for southern Germany for a group of seven people, my family, my 80-year old mother, and my brother’s family. Since we started our trip in Frankfurt, the best way was to drive there. And, we would be flexible without limited by the local public transportation.
Our itinerary for southern Germany
However, our family of seven, with elderly and young kids, has very diversified interests. Suggested by my German relatives, we had finally come up the following itinerary for southern Germany, which covers some of the major sites in the area:
- Day 1: Leave Frankfurt, have a break in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and arrive at Ettal
- Day 2: Visit Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle, dine in the old centre of Füssen
- Day 3: Being on top of Germany, Zugspitze and dinning in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Day 4: Strolling around in Munich and having a jug of Hofbräuhaus Beer
- Day 5: See the Painted Façades (Lüftlmalerei) in Oberammergau and the Ettal Abbey
- Day 6: Leave Ettal, Climb up the tallest church spire in the world in Ulm and arrive at Frankfurt
Day 1: Leave Frankfurt, have a break in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and arrive at Ettal
We left Frankfurt around 9:00 in the morning and took the route via Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Therefore, we took the chance to visit the city and had a late lunch there.
Then, after another two hours of driving, from south of Munich, we left the highway and drove along the local road. As we approached Ettal, the scenic Alps view came into sight.
Finally, around the 19:00, we arrive at Ettal and checked in the Posthotel Ettal.
For those who arrive at Munich Airport or choose Munich as the base to explore the above places, it is also possible since they are all reachable by public transportation or by car. Or, join a tour in Munich to see those sites. Some of the popular tours are:
- Zugspitze Tour from Munich: Groups of 4 or More
- Day Trip to Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castles from Munich
- Munich’s Beer Halls and Breweries: 3-Hour Guided Tour
Day 2: Visit Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle, Dine in the old centre of Füssen
From Ettal to Neuschwanstein Castle, we had to pass the Linderhof Palace, where King Ludwig II had lived. Therefore, we stopped there and took the chance to visit the palace and its garden. The guided tour to the palace was around one hour.
After the tour in Linderhof, we continued driving towards the Hohenschwangau, and we arrived there around lunchtime. Since we pre-booked our Neuschwanstein castle guided tour for the 16:00 slot, we had the time to hike up the Marienbrücke, the best spot to picture the whole castle. To make the trip easier, you can join the day trip tour to Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castles from Munich.
Because Füssen is just a few kilometres away from the Neuschwanstein castle, we went to this After the castle visiting,
The itinerary for the day was:
- Visiting Linderhof Palace and its garden
- Lunch in Hohenschwangau
- Viewing the Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrücke
- Guided tour in Neuschwanstein Castle
- Dinner in the quaint town centre of Füssen
Related post: Visit Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace in One Day
Day 3: Being on top of Germany, Zugspitze and dinning in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
About 2,962 metres above sea level, Zugspitze is Germany’s highest elevation in the Alps. It is famous not only for its height but also for the other things, such as its views from the top to the four countries, the highest chapel in the world, and the historic border crossing.
Here are the things we have done in the day:
- Reach the Zugspitze from Germany
- Enjoying the 360° Panorama views on the top of Germany
- The Summit Cross, the highlight of our Zugspitze Day Trip
- Have lunch in the panorama restaurant
- Visit the glacier to see the highest chapel Maria Heimsuchung in Germany
- Have a drink at the Sonnalp restaurant in the afternoon sun
- Take a short walk around Eibsee
- Evening walk in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Dine in the restaurant in Garmisch-Partenkirchen owned by our landlord
Related post: Zugspitze Day Trip, A Journey to the Top of Germany in Summer
Day 4: Strolling around in Munich and having a jug of Hofbräuhaus Beer
In general, it is difficult to look for parking in downtown Munich on a usual Saturday. And it also costs a lot for the whole day parking. Therefore, we decided to buy a group day ticket. The ticket should include all the sites we would visit.
So, in the early morning, we drove to the train station Höllriegelskreuth, the closest station where the railway station parking is free. The group day ticket from Höllriegelskreuth to Munich city center costs less than 30 Euros, and the ticket includes access to all the city zones we planned to go to.
We took the train (S-Bahn) to the Karlsplatz and started our city walk. At the Odeonplatz, we took public transportation to the BMW World and the BMW Museum. So, the itinerary of our day trip to Munich was:
- Visit the sites around Marienplatz
- Wandering through Viktualienmarkt
- Have a quick coffee in Kaffeerösterei Viktualienmarkt
- Window Shopping in the fashion shops in the centre
- Lunch in Hofbräuhaus and have a jug of its beer
- Chasing the latest models in BMW World
- Learn the history of BMW in its museum
The Munich Hop-On Hop-Off Tour: 1-Day or 2-Day Ticket is suitable for day travellers and has good value. It goes to many sites directly within several hours.
Day 5: See the Painted Façades (Lüftlmalerei) in Oberammergau and the Ettal Abbey
In the morning
I got to know Oberammergau from a well-known German twister when studied German years ago. It is a small town in the Bavarian Alps, Germany. With only a few thousands of residents, it is well-known for its wall paintings, the Cathartic event Passion Play, and a long tradition of woodcarving. We went there in the early morning to avoid the mass tourists and spent a couple of hours until lunchtime.
Several tours from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle include this village on their itineraries, such as the tour to Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castles from Munich, which takes a small detour through the little town of Oberammergau.
In the afternoon
Then, we drove back to Ettal, which is just a few minutes of driving from Oberammergau. Having stayed in Ettal for a couple of days, finally, we got the chance to visit the Ettal Abbey. The Ettal Abbey looks like a castle from outside and produces everything the monks need for life.
Besides, the Ettal Abbey also runs the Klosterhotel Ludwig der Bayer opposite the street.
In the evening
We ended our day by having a big dinner in the restaurant of Ettal Monastery. It is worth to mention that the restaurant of the Ettal Monastery has four hundred years of history. And the food it offers, such as the Kaiserschmman, is super delicious.
Day 6: Leave Ettal, Climb up the tallest church spire in the world in Ulm and arrive at Frankfurt
We left Ettal after our early breakfast on the last day. The sky was blue with a few clouds. It hadn’t any wind. When we drove along the local road towards the highway, we enjoyed the roadside view again, the typical Bavarian style of the house, the green grassland, and the churches with onion domes.
Ulm is Einstein’s birthplace. However, it is more famous because it was a free imperial city with numerous sites of historical interest. Ulm is quite close to other famous places in southern Germany, such as Munich and Neuschwanstein Castle. It took two hours from Ettal to Ulm. Therefore, on the last day of our itinerary for southern Germany, on the way back to Frankfurt, we chose the route via Ulm.
Since it took us a while to reach Ulm, by the time we arrived there, it was already lunchtime.
The itinerary of our Ulm walking tour was:
- Lunch in a modern restaurant QMUH Ulm
- Walking around the medieval centre
- Climb up the highest spire of the Ulm Minster
- Have an afternoon drink in cafe restaurant in Stadthaus Ulm
- Get inspired by the modern architects
We stayed there until evening. When we arrived in Frankfurt, however, it was already around 22:00. We were tired and hungry but were very happy to have made such a perfect itinerary for southern Germany.
Where we stayed
Based on our itinerary for southern Germany, we decided to book our stays in Posthotel Ettal in the small village Bavarian village Ettal. Since it is close to all the places we would explore, we have saved a lot of time on the road. The place is unknown to many travelers who travel to Bavaria. But it is very famous for Ettal Abbey. It has several good hotels which have good values for the prices.
Originally, the first hotel we would like to book was the Klosterhotel Ludwig der Bayer, which is operated by the Ettal Abbey. However, it had only two rooms left, whereas we required three rooms. Therefore, we booked the Posthotel Ettal next to it.
The Posthotel Ettal includes a breakfast buffet, Wifi, and parking places. Besides, the hotel owner owns a restaurant in the middle of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which offers typical Bavaria cuisine.
However, if you choose other places to stay and to explore the area, you can find some good offers at booking.com.
How to reach southern Germany
If you arrive at Frankfort Airport, you can rent a car and drive towards the south, as we did.
But if you arrive at Munich Airport, you can take the Lufthansa Express Bus for a nonstop connection from Munich Airport to the city center, no matter which airline you fly with.
Trains go to most cities in southern Germany, such as Ulm and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Tickets can be bought online.
To drive to southern Germany from Frankfurt of Munich is not so difficult. In case you want to rent a car, you can pick up the car in the Frankfurt Airport, the city of Frankfurt, in Munich, or Munich Airport, depending on where you arrive and from which rental company you rent a car.
Lovely post! I did a road trip here last Summer and can’t wait to go back!
I love Germany and can’t wait to return. The buildings are just so pretty in these smaller places, and I would like to really spend more time exploring.
Wow I never knew the Observation Platform of Zugspitze existed! Added to the bucket list.
We only spent time in Munich on our last trip! You’ve inspired me to see so much more of South Germany!
Germany has the most beautiful castles!! I have only been to Berlin and Dresden but I would love to explore more of the country starting with some of these places you highlighted 🙂
I’m planning our trip to southern Germany over Christmas, and this is very helpful. There’s so much to see, and so little time!